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Trust your team: four tips to stepping aside

When you maintain a leadership role, it’s tempting to take charge all the time. But you have to know when to hand off responsibility to members of your team. Leaders know when to make decisions, but they also know when to trust others to make those decisions for them.

Being a leader is an important role, and we often feel tempted to fulfill and build up those expectations. But an often unrecognized quality of leadership is knowing when to shut up and step aside. Not everything needs your stamp of approval or your opinion, so here are four tips to help you identify that moment when you’re not needed.

Your skill set isn’t involved

Good leaders realize that their knowledge and experiences are limited in few different aspects. That’s okay. You might know your organization better than anyone in the world, but some components will still require a specialized skill set that you don’t have. Trust the experts or your employees who carry the strengths that you lack. Make sure your talents are being used where they’re most needed, while you let others take care of those issues that function as roadblocks to your skill sets.

You have a full plate — delegate

Time is a luxury, so treat it like one. You don’t have to be at the forefront of every decision because there are other people in your organization who can do that for you. Recognize that and take advantage of that fact. Know what situations and components of your organization actually require your attention and know when you can afford to pass it on to a capable member of your team. They’re your team, so use them.

A new perspective doesn’t hurt

A great leader is always striving to learn new things and create new opportunities. There’s only one way to do that, and that’s by allowing yourself to take a minute to sit and listen to a few fresh voices. You won’t get the best work out of your team members if they’re waiting for you to tell them to jump, so let them know that their opinions and ideas matter. Let them work out problems on their own, and it’s likely they’ll do it better than you could have imagined.

Ego can make a team fragile

While you might be the most talented person in the world, you don’t and shouldn’t do everything. You won’t always know better, and thinking you do all the time could injure your team. Try to be humble, know your flaws and allow others to fill the gaps. Don’t let your self-importance get in the way and trust your team to do the job they were hired to do.

Encourage your employees to become leaders: How to teach initiative

Teaching your employees initiative is essentially teaching them to take risk. When you take a step forward on a creaky bridge, there’s a chance your foot might fall through — but there’s a reason the adage “no risk, no reward” caught on. Things don’t always go according to plan, but if you want your organization to grow or succeed through hardship, you don’t always have a choice but to take a chance.

If you’re the leader, you don’t want your organization filled with action averse employees who only move when you do. Empower them and ask them to bear responsibility with these four tips that doesn’t pass the torch but lights theirs.

Set Goals

Make known what you want your business or organization to achieve. Your employees won’t know how to get you there if you haven’t set clear plans and communicated that to the group. If people know where you want to go, they can help chart the course or even suggest alternatives.

Pass the Mantle

For the love of all that is good, don’t micromanage the troops. Once you’ve set goals, provide duties and allow people to take ownership of their role. Give them some space to figure out and overcome potential problems and conflicts themselves. You don’t want to hold their hand constantly or else no one is going to want to try or experiment without your permission.

Don’t Wait for Perfection

Your employees aren’t always going to take the perfect path. They might hit some with bumps in the road. That’s okay. If you set the expectation that nothing less than perfection is acceptable, you’re going to paralyze your workforce. People need to know that failure or opposition is acceptable — it should even be expected. “My way or the highway” isn’t going to work if you’re hoping for employees who can fulfill tasks themselves.

Keep Your Door Open

While you don’t need to be looking over everyone’s shoulder as they make calls or write emails, you should always keep your door open and make yourself available. Your employees are going to have questions or want your opinion. Encourage that kind of collaboration. Sometimes they won’t really need your help, but they just need affirmation. That’s okay. Sometimes you just give someone a nod of approval.

What new leaders need to do right away

It is inevitable that any organization will have a new leader, and it’s
always an adjustment. While it can be an exciting and hopeful time filled with the possibilities of a new direction, it still takes time to earn trust and loyalty from those who have been there for a long period of time.

Nevertheless, a new leader should see this as an opportunity to learn and engage their team. Below are five tips to incorporate in your leadership style to find immediate success.

Speak to everyone

While your initial instinct will be to speak to the people who hired you and your immediate subordinates, you need to expand your pool. In order for people to support your leadership, you need to show your face and prove that you care about people at all levels. When new leaders come in, some people might be skeptical. Address that skepticism head on and find its foundation. Getting to the root of these issues can immediately help you to succeed as you build your strategic vision for the organization. And who knows what you might learn at the same time. 

Identify influencers

Once you’ve spoken to everyone, find the natural leaders amongst them. This is some of your top talent, and you’ll want to bolster their success. It may take some time to identify who produces the best quality work, but once you do you’ve found the foundation of your company. Be sure to invest in these people and expand based upon their talents.

Showcase success

In that vein, it is important to also point out the people who are succeeding. This redoubles their efforts, shows that you acknowledge success, and stimulates a culture of hard work. This will also inspire camaraderie and pushes employees to collaborate and address the agenda that you’ve set for the organization in a productive way.

Be an open book

Don’t hide the challenges the company faces. If people feel closed out, they don’t feel readily engaged. While you may not be able to share everything, there are certainly important ideas and issues that you want your employees to consider. And by sharing, you’ve inspired your team because they feel like valued members of the organization.

Value accountability

If you take people’s ideas seriously, then more ideas will flourish. But make sure you take them seriously in a way that you expect results. While it’s great to have someone who can come up with a million ideas off the top of their head, telling your team that execution is key makes them feel inclined to prove their validity. It’s about finding a solution, not only identifying problems.

How to achieve buy-in? Six tips on how to become a great communicator

It’s easy to identify communication as a key component of leadership success, but many struggle to relay an idea or get their bosses, colleagues and subordinates to “buy-in” to their ideas. If you have a strategic vision for your company and your role within it, it is essential to impart that upon others and gain their endorsement.

Below are six tips that you can immediately incorporate to get to that next level of communication success and earn the essential “buy-in” of your peers.

Show it. Sometimes it’s just about looking the part. Communication can be about your outward appearance, often the foundation of your first impression. This doesn’t mean how you are dressed necessarily, but instead how you hold yourself. Prove your confidence by showing it. This can influences how you express an idea: an energetic tone, smiling, nodding, strong eye contact, firm handshake, and an easy and relaxed posture. All these display, engage and bolster “buy-in.”

Keep it simple. Over-explanation will be the first nail in your coffin. If no one knows what you are talking about, then it will be nearly impossible to fulfill your strategic vision. Complexity is valued by the lonely, and triumph is never attained alone. Confident leaders will make it simple for those around them, allowing those people to “buy-in” to the idea. Yes, you might sound smart using industry jargon and flourishes, but there’s no quicker way to lose a room and tamp down excitement.

Share. We have a tendency to want to keep everything close to the chest, but sometimes it’s overkill. If you’re seeking investment from people in your company, they need to know what the hell is going on. Tell them. Sharing information strategically will make you more valuable to your organization and potentially raise your profile as an expert. This is how trust is built, and it will develop that “buy-in” you want from bosses, colleagues, and subordinates.

Improvise. Any great leader can identify a communication formula that works, and it’s needed because the modern work environment forces people to think on their feet. Brevity is the soul of wit and the avenue to the desired “buy-in.” Learn to give off-the-cuff statements that concisely summarize your point in a few sentences or less. Someone who can deliver on his/her feet impresses everyone, and that improvisation is a craft that can be mastered.

Spin a yarn. Humans naturally communicate by telling stories, so use that to your advantage. Add anecdotes to meetings and presentations as well as casual conversations to drive home the points and ideas that you want to impact onto others. Some may find it difficult to remember only the essential point. But once it is illustrated in a story, people can use it as a guiding light to remember and more easily “buy in” to the concept.

Ask questions. Any great leader knows that their education is never complete. If you don’t take the time to hear what’s happening from the basement to the penthouse of your company, then you’re not going to address problems that could blow up later and maybe even miss some opportunities. It’s important to make yourself available and hear from others. Because no mater how smart you are, you don’t have all the answers.

Yes, sometimes the answers won’t matter, but colleagues and subordinates will always appreciate you taking a moment to step back and listen.

Learn “The Cubs Way” and Share the Win

Diamond6 Leadership & Strategy has a soft spot for the Chicago Cubs, as D6 CEO Jeff McCausland is a lifelong fan. But the Cubs are also a masterclass in leadership, especially when we consider General Manager Theo Epstein.

Epstein has broken two baseball “curses” during his 15 years as a Major League Baseball general manager. He first took on the helm of his hometown team — the Boston Red Sox  — where he brought the Curse of the Bambino to an end in 2004. In 2012, he came to the Cubs, completely rebuilt the team and won a World Series within five years.

He is a managerial legend now, but it still came as a surprise when he was named Fortune Magazine’s best leader in the world — even beating out the pope. Yet his reaction to the magazine’s honor also proves his qualities as a great leader.

The baby-faced manager, only 43, said he was taken aback by the top spot.

“Um, I can’t even get my dog to stop peeing in my house,” Epstein texted ESPN writer Buster Olney. “This is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous.”

But it’s that exact dismissal that is evidence he is such a great leader. It is that rejection that proves his sense of modesty and humility — an integral characteristic of leadership. Epstein would be the first to say that he is not singularly responsible for changing the culture of an entire franchise and bringing the first baseball championship to the city of Chicago in 108 years. But it must be noted that his organizational changes brought the Cubs a victory.

“It’s baseball — a pastime involving a lot of chance,” Epstein told Olney, before bringing up a player he signed as an example. “If [utility player Ben] Zobrist’s ball is three inches farther off the line, I’m on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I’m not the best leader in our organization; our players are.”

A weaker person would have immediately taken credit for others’ wins, but Epstein is unwilling to bask in that glory. Instead he readjusts it and places the honor at the feet of the members of his organization, such as the players.

A good leader knows that the successes of a “team” isn’t the result of any one person. We must recognize and acknowledge every individual’s contributions or else we create an environment that doesn’t encourage success. No organization wants to stifle good work, so understand the new “Cubs Way” and share the achievement in order to inspire accomplishment.

Should you have a mentor? Probably.

When considering a mentor, it is first important to get to the foundation of what exactly we mean by “mentoring.” Mentoring is a personal relationship in which a more experienced (usually older) mentor acts as a guide, role-model, and sponsor of a less experienced (usually younger) protégé.

Mentors provide protégés with knowledge, advice, challenge, counsel, and support in their pursuit of becoming full members of a profession as well as becoming effective leaders. This is different from “coaching” which normally refers to shorter term relationships to seek and acquire often technical skills though at times coach can well become a mentor.

I firmly believe most people particularly when embarking on a new career path can benefit markedly from having a mentor. This is particularly true from young people who (as you can see from the definition provided) are embarking on a career in a “profession.” According to sociologists the “professions” include the military, law (to include lawyers as well as law enforcement), medicine, theologians, and educators. These career paths are different from other positions in society.

First, the members of a “profession” have control over an abstract body of knowledge. They are entrusted by society to develop this body of knowledge throughout their careers when they as the professions custodians. Doctors and medical researchers are expected to continue their development as medical professionals during their career while seeking better methods to treat injury and disease.

Second, members of a profession are entrusted by society with a certain degree of autonomy over who may enter the profession as well as determining who has violated the norms of the profession and must lose their “license to practice.” Doctors, military officers, and theologians swear oaths. If they are determined to be operating outside what is acceptable they lose their license, are court-martialed, or are defrocked.

Finally, those who enter a profession are motivated to provide an essential service to society that is critical for society to operate, develop, and survive. Obviously, we all believe that the external security provided by the military is critical, medical personnel treat our ailments, theologians comfort us in our moments of need, and we need a legal system that includes law enforcement if society is to function.

Consequently, I believe that those entering a profession have a heightened need for mentors to insure they fully understand its norms, standards of practice, and are encouraged to continue their professional development.


Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.

Leadership Found and Fought at the Alamo

Some historians regard the Mexican defeat in the Texas Revolution as among the most influential developments in the emergence of the United States as a hemispheric and, eventually, a world power.

The Diamond6 Alamo Leadership Study offers thought-provoking insights from a battle and campaign that seem familiar—but are not generally well understood. On-the-ground study of this Revolution opens up discoveries that can benefit today’s leaders as they grapple with unpredictable change, inter-cultural influences, powerful personalities, a highly volatile environment, and competing stakeholder aims.

The chaotic conditions in Texas and Mexico in 1836 presented leaders on both sides with wickedly complex challenges. In San Antonio both groups operated at the far end of their range of influence. Misunderstandings of the situation and of the opposition’s aims and qualities forced Samuel Houston, Travis, and David Bowie on the Texian side and Santa Anna and his political and military aides on the other to guess and improvise almost every day.

For the Anglo-Tejano rebels, unexpected attacks on their legal rights, uncontrolled influx of American adventurers, and economic penalties imposed by Santa Anna’s government provoked an ill-organized, mutually suspicious resistance. Disagreements over the question of independence or reform and disputed leadership at state level put Travis and Bowie in a tough, risky position in San Antonio early in the year. Their Tejano partners, led by Navarro and Seguin, faced choices that were doubly hard. In both groups a mistaken conception of Santa Anna’s intention and abilities led them to dangerously false assumptions and compelled rebel leaders to make snap decisions that had decisive effects.

On the other side, Santa Anna saw the resistance in Texas as yet another instance in a long line of Yankee incursions into Mexico. Insecure in power and dealing with opposition in Mexico City and in other states, he had to force a quick decision. His response was ingenious in some respects but deeply flawed in others. The leadership environment he imposed on his army and government played a central part in the contest’s outcome and is notably useful for study today.

The perceptions of observers on all sides constrained their choices and created problems analogous to those that leaders face today. The neutral citizens of Mexico, the population and government of the United States, several European powers, and the Native American tribes of the region all figured in the choices that the opposing leaders had to make.

San Antonio became a decisive point for both sides, unwittingly for the rebels and deliberately for Santa Anna. In the Alamo Leadership Study, participants examine how the actions of Travis and Santa Anna brought on a crisis for both sides. Diamond 6’s expert historians and authorities on leadership theory assist them in developing new ideas about the case itself and about the application of leadership principles to current problems. Past participants from both the private and public sectors have enhanced their leader skills individually and as teams through this event.


Don Holder is an independent consultant on leadership, Joint Force and Army doctrine, and training.  As one of six Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) Senior Mentors, he coached commanders of Army corps, divisions and brigades in advanced training exercises.  He advises doctrine writers and force designers on future operations and lectures on theater operations at foreign and US service schools.

THIS is More Important Than Leadership Development…

I’m going to let you in on a secret about Diamond6….

Even though the word “leadership” is in our name, we often consider it secondary to a much more important topic – your health. Let me explain.

When I ask you to visualize a hardworking, successful leader what do you see?

This?

 

 

 

 

Or this?

 

 

 

 

 

My guess is picture number one.

The expectation is that to be effective, successful and respected by colleagues and subordinates a leader should be doing something all the time. Days are full of meetings, phone calls, emails and 24/7 accessibility. Every moment of the day must be filled or else we aren’t working hard enough. “No rest for the weary!” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” are all too common phrases that we hear – either from others or we tell ourselves.

Our lives are hectic, there’s no doubt about that. Technology makes us accessible no matter where we are or what time it is, causing work time to flow over into our personal time. Who hasn’t checked work email at dinner or been on a conference call during soccer practice?

We know that putting aside time for health and self-care is important. But, we don’t make it a priority like we do work-related tasks. Habits like exercising, eating well, drinking plenty of water, and spending time outside are squeezed into whatever open space may be left in an already overflowing calendar. If we do make time for, or prioritize self-care it often comes with feelings of guilt and shame. Guilt for making ourselves a priority and shame because we’re afraid what others might think. “She should be working on that big report instead of going for a walk!”

The Rippe Health Assessment Study of Senior Executives found that senior executives are at a higher risk for heart disease and are more inclined to having elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure. This study further concluded that 73 percent of the executives who participated were not active enough, and nearly 40 percent were obese.

This study was conducted by Dr. James Rippe, associate professor of medicine (cardiology) at Tufts University School of Medicine and founder/director of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute and Rippe Health Assessment. In response to the results, Dr. Rippe said, “The critical levels of risk factors for heart disease among senior executives affect everyone in the business world, from employees to stockholders.  And because risk factors multiply each other in relation to the risk of heart disease, an overweight, inactive senior executive is something that no American company can afford.”

I would add that inactive, sick employees is also something your organization cannot afford.

If you are not regularly practicing self-care habits you are doing a disservice to yourself, your organization and those you lead. A sick, tired, and stressed leader will be ineffective, making all other knowledge about leadership completely obsolete. This is why we believe that your health is of utmost importance.

All leaders must lead by example. This cannot be more true than when it comes to the health of the people in your organization. When others see you practicing self-care habits it gives them permission to do the same for themselves.

Here are three self-care habits you can start TODAY and lead others to taking care of themselves as well.

  1. Walk: Studies have linked sitting to a greater risk for a variety of cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes. And, more than half of our waking hours are spent sitting. Walking meetings are a great way to incorporate movement into your day, while still getting work done and getting others motivated to move. For example; set aside an hour once a week for your walking meeting and put it on your calendar. Let colleagues know if they wish to discuss something with you they are welcome to join you for your walk. Encourage others to follow suit and schedule walking meetings into their calendars as well.
  2. Drink: It seems simple enough, but most of us don’t drink enough water. My recommendation is to drink half your weight in ounces. For example; if you weigh 150 lbs you should be drinking 75 ounces of water each day. To get others on board with drinking water make sure to bring your water to meetings or offer a bottle of water to anyone who comes into your office. Make sure employees have access to clean drinking water by providing a water cooler or water fountain close by.
  3. Learn: The wonderful part of being in an office setting is that you have built in teammates. Learning together about health and wellness is a great way to get motivated and consequently hold each other accountable to practicing new self-care habits. It can also foster team building, compassion and awareness for one another. Reach out to a local health expert to conduct a “Lunch and Learn” class or bring in a yoga instructor once a week to do a short stretching class.

Check out my upcoming webinar!

During this class I will share a step by step guide for making lasting changes to the way you eat, my favorite clean-eating staples and much more! Click the image below to reserve your spot. 

Of course, I encourage you to lead by example and share this class with your team, colleagues or organization! I look forward to speaking with you then.


Tanya McCausland is the COO at Diamond6 Leadership and a Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She is board certified by the National Association of Nutrition Professionals and teaches executive wellness to leaders at all levels. 

Many Generations in the Workplace

With so many generations in the workplace, how do you find common ground to work optimally together?

Currently there are four generations in the workplace.  They are:

  • WW II generation (born before 1943)
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1944 and 1963)
  • Generation X (born between 1964 and 1984)
  • Gen Y or Millennials (born between 1985 and 2005)

Research has shown that each generation views work and careers differently though many experts disagree on the degree to which their perspective vary.  Furthermore, it is necessary to realize that this is at best imprecise, and those born on or around a so-called boundary years (i.e. 1963 between Boomers and Xers) might very well be inclined to be with one generation or the other.

I believe it is still important for effective leaders to be aware of these potential differences in perspective if they are going to maximize performance and fully understand how different members of the team may approach a problem or work/life balance.   This is also not an “airy fairy” effort to achieve an artificial diversity goal but can be of value to any team for a number of reasons.

  • An expansion of the number of creative ideas available to you
  • Better contacts with your customer or client base
  • Access to a wider range of problem solvers
  • Reduction in tensions and hostilities across demographic and generational lines
  • An increased appreciation of different people, ideas, and general respect for others

Research has shown that perhaps the biggest factor in working across the “divide” is establishing trust with each other across generational lines.  This may often times require a good deal of listening by the leader to determine why and how alternative approaches are proposed.  For example, in general, Boomers tend to value competence. Xers value relationship/communication and seem to have a greater need for open discussion.

Probably the best place for the leader to start is to get the team to focus on what they agree on.  It is also important to keep in mind that other factors affect how individuals confront problems and work effectively on teams.  It should not be surprising to learn that generally men and women often have different perspectives of what leaders do and how they do it.  The literature further suggests culture also influences individual perceptions, roles and identities. Surveys of cross-generational teams also indicates that in addition to culture, gender, age, and education are important, and these factors influence each other. If you only look at one factor, it may lead you to mistaken conclusions.

It is critical to keep in remember that not every member of generation is “that way”.  Failing to keep this in mind can potentially create biases in dealing with other generations.  Finally, it is useful to keep in mind the words of Winnie the Pooh!  What makes me different…is what makes me….Me!

-Dr. Jeff McCausland